Lark News, the Christian satire website, posted this humorous article about Missional churches:
Emergent leaders call for ‘missional re-understanding of Jesus-followership and Christ-focus imbued with passionate creativity and emotional authenticity,’ whatever that means:
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — At a recent conference-like “gathering” of emergent church leaders, various factions sparred over competing visions for the future of the movement.
Leaders on one side called for “deepening and continuously beautiful efforts toward emotionally true self-divulgence and confession.” Other leaders countered with a call for “a theological re-purposing of our objective and subjective missionality within a framework of God-love.” Because few in attendance actually understood what either side meant, both ideas were tabled.
The sides did agree that emergent leaders should continue to take every opportunity to make casual, cool cultural references to popular television shows, movies and Internet phenomena to introduce quasi-intellectual spiritual points about the state of the American church.
They also pledged to maintain their reputation for being “more spiritually honest than the millions of people who attend institutionalized churches every week and blindly go along with the programs, sermons and mindset that make American Christianity the colossal failure it is today.”
After toasting themselves with various hyper-cool micro-brews, the audience adjourned to begin 7 and 8-hour theological bull sessions in their hotel rooms and local bars.
Conference organizers say they will meet again to do the same thing next year.
I laughed at this for several reasons.
The Mission of Emerging Leaders is Coining New Terms
I have read (and am reading) a lot of books by emerging church leaders, and it seems that when they don’t have a word to describe what they are trying to say, they just invent one. One term being thrown around today which is not mentioned in the satirical article above is “glocal” which refers to how Christians must be both global and local in their missional mindset.
There was a time about a year ago, when I thought that if I heard the word “missional” one more time, I was going to throw up. Now, I have somewhat resigned myself to the fact that it is a term that is going to stick, and to a large degree, I am trying to live “missionally.”
One term that still gets me queasy, however, is “Imago Dei.” It’s Latin for “Image of God,” which I don’t mind at all. My question is, “Why use Latin, when the English is just fine?” There is only one reason I can think of: “Imago Dei” sounds smarter and cooler.
Emerging Church Isn’t so Relevant After All
The terminology of the Emerging Church brings up the second reason I found the Lark article funny.
One of the criticisms leveled at traditional churches by the “emergent/emerging” crowd is that they use too much technical language, theological terms, and Christian jargon that nobody understands. They say we should root out of our vocabulary words like “justification, sanctification, glorification, dispensationalism, eschatology” and other similar terms.
But ironically, they have gone and created their own vocabulary that nobody understands except those who are “in.” And yet, people who are excited and intrigued by what the emerging/emergent churches are doing are willing to learn the terminology and begin using it themselves.
You know what this means? Getting our message heard is not about weeding out tricky terminology. It’s speaking and writing with a passion and excitement so that others are not only willing to listen, but also to learn and adopt the language.
Look at text messaging as an example. Text messengers have developed their own entire language. I understand very little of it, but those who want to communicate with other cellphone users have learned the language and terms and created their own sub-culture. To see what I mean, check out this list of texting acronyms.
So can you use words like justification and sanctification? Sure! These words are more Biblical than words like “missional,” “emerging,” and “glocal.” But whatever terminology you use, don’t speak and write in a way that is dispassionate and cold toward God, His Word, and all those in the world who are seeking direction (whether believers or unbelievers). While we want to be as clear as possible, if you use terminology that people don’t understand, they will try to learn that terminology if they catch your passion and vision.
In other words, if you cast a vision you are passionate about, people will follow, even if you use words like “glocal,” “imago dei,” “missional,” and “justification.”
And just in case you don’t know what “missional” means, here is some explanation. In a recent article, Brad Brisco shows how impossible this is. Missional is a whole new way of doing church. Here is an excerpt:
Despite the fact that missional language has been in use for at least a quarter of a century, it is being applied today in a wide variety of ways. Unfortunately, many times resulting in confusion. Some view missional as the latest church growth strategy, or a better way of doing church evangelism. Others see missional as a means to mobilize church members to do missions more effectively. While still others believe missional is simply the latest Christian fad that will soon pass when the next trendy topic comes along.
I would argue that those who believe missional is merely an add-on to current church activities, or perhaps even a passing craze prevalent only among church leaders, have simply not fully grasped the magnitude of the missional conversation. While it may sound like hyperbole; the move towards missional involves no less than a complete and thorough recalibration of the form and function of the church of Jesus.
In other words … do you want to be truly “missional”? Great! Just talk like other people and use words that everyone understands. Speak to be clear; not to be cool.